25 Nov 2021 NFL Draft Watch: Top 3 Week 13 College Football Games
It is Thanksgiving weekend which typically signals the end of the College Football regular season. But with a delayed start and reshuffled schedule, we are still in thick of things with plenty of football left to play, and NFL Draft prospects to keep an eye on.
As we inch closer to the new year, each game becomes more important for a couple of reasons. For one, bowl season is around the corner so teams are jockeying for postseason positioning, and two, the opportunities for NFL Draft prospects to show off their abilities are dwindling.
It is imperative that all the players mentioned below continue to put forth some quality plays on tape. Otherwise, it could cost them a lot of money come late April.
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Kentucky at #6 Florida
Kentucky is coming off a 60-point drubbing at the hands of Alabama, while Florida has its sights on the SEC Championship and will be looking to send a message to the Tide this weekend. This one might not be close on the scoreboard, but there are a few individual battles worth watching.
In recent years, the Wildcats have sent quite a few quality pass rushers to the NFL in Bud Dupree, Josh Allen and Za’Darius Smith. Potential late Day 3 pick Jamar Watson has a good chance to be the next name on that list. Watson has a quick get-off and is good at turning speed to power as a counter move, but he lacks the power and strength to hold up against the run.
On the other side of the trenches is center Drake Jackson, who has the lower body strength and hand placement to knock defensive tackles off the ball and be effective in a gap-heavy running scheme. However, he has short arms that allow longer defensive linemen to get into his chest, limiting his effectiveness on zone run blocks and hindering his ability to drop the anchor in pass protection.
Landon Young is another Kentucky offensive lineman to keep an eye on. At 6’7” and 321 pounds, the tackle has NFL-level size with good zone instincts and strong grip strength, but he bends more at the waist than at the knee, throwing off his balance. Cleaning up that technical flaw will be key for his draft stock as he currently projects as a sixth- or seventh-rounder.
Squaring off against Young will be Florida edge defender Jeremiah Moon. With an impressive burst off the line, Moon can win with speed as a pass rusher and has the bend to take efficient routes to the quarterback. However, he will likely be a fourth- or fifth-round pick due to his lack of play strength and bad pad level as a run defender.
Moon’s running mate is defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, an unmovable object against the run as he plays with low pad level and tips the scale at 358 pounds. When rushing the passer, Slaton can be effective when bull rushing but does not have a secondary move and is primarily a two-down player. He will likely be a mid-round pick come draft day.
On the complete opposite side of the size spectrum is a speedy and explosive playmaker in Kadarius Toney. His speed allows him to win on deep routes and after the catch, but he has a below-average catch radius and is more of a body than a hands catcher. Toney is playing his way into the late Day 2 discussion this year but will likely fall somewhere in the early Day 3 range.
#22 Auburn at #1 Alabama
The Iron Bowl rarely fails to deliver, as this is a classic “throw the records out the window” type of rivalry. Auburn still has an outside shot at an SEC West title, but that cannot happen without a victory on Saturday. As for Alabama, another conference championship is still important, but Nick Saban and company have their sights on a bigger, shinier trophy.
Auburn has a couple of wideouts who project as Day 2 picks in Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. Williams is a slightly better prospect who is a crafty route runner and thrives in the intermediate to deep areas. The problem is, he struggles to adjust to balls behind him and shows limited ability to make plays after the catch.
At 6’0” and 179 pounds, Schwartz is best as a smaller slot receiver who can take the top off a defense. However, his lack of size does lead to some struggles beating press coverage and in contested catch situations.
On defense, Big Kat Bryant – who is in the running for best name in college football – is an edge defender who can win with speed and has a high motor as a pass rusher. He can fit into a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker or as a 4-3 defensive end, which should help elevate his draft stock. Currently, Bryant projects as a third- to fifth-rounder in the NFL Draft.
Looking to lock down Bryant will be a potential NFL Draft first-round pick Alex Leatherwood. The offensive tackle has a strong base and active hands in pass protection and is an effective down blocker in the running game. However, Leatherwood can be too aggressive by ducking his head and lunging at the point of attack, which leaves him susceptible to swim moves as a pass or run blocker.
Standing behind the big man is quarterback Mac Jones, who is a cerebral passer that works through his progressions and is very accurate when throwing to the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. The problem is, Jones struggles with the deep ball – both accuracy and arm strength – and lacks the mobility that has become more coveted at the position in recent years.
He is currently projected to be a Day 2 pick, but adding a Heisman Trophy to his resume could change that in a hurry.
Facing off against the two receivers mentioned above will be one of the top cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, Patrick Surtain II. With excellent press coverage skills and the ideal size – 6’1” and 203 pounds – Surtain might be the most “NFL ready” prospect at the position. He does have a habit of arm tackling instead of bringing his feet and wrapping up and can struggle against quicker pass-catchers, but he is still pretty much a lock to go in the first round.
#15 Iowa State at #20 Texas
With a 6-1 conference record, Iowa State is in a prime position to win its first Big 12 Championship in school history. However, Texas can spoil the Cyclones’ season and give themselves a shot at the title with a win on Friday afternoon.
One of the top prospects coming out of Ames will be tight end Charlie Kolar. While Kolar does not have elite athleticism, his combination of craftiness, reliable hands and solid blocking ability should attract plenty of potential suitors. That is what makes him a potential third- or fourth-round pick for any team looking to add a number two tight end.
Shifting to the other side of the ball, safety Greg Eisworth II mans the back end of the Cyclones’ defense and has the potential to be an early Day 2 pick. Due to his aggressiveness in run support and zone coverage, Eisworth will thrive in the box and in underneath coverage. However, he lacks the range and ball skills to play the single-high safety spot on Sundays.
Moving into the trenches, JaQuan Bailey is a defensive lineman who has the play strength to hold his ground and be a stout run defender at the next level. While he is the school’s career sack leader, Bailey lacks the athletic ability and bend to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL. With that, he will likely be a sixth-round pick or priority free agent come April and a move to the inside may be in order.
Sam Cosmi will be in charge of keeping Bailey in check for the Longhorns. At 6’7” and 310 pounds, the tackle has elite size to go along with a powerful punch and kung fu grip in pass protection. He does have some bad habits like letting his feet get too narrow and bending at the waist, which diminishes his anchor as a pass blocker but that can be easily fixed, and he will likely end up as an early second-round pick.
Texas has another fringe NFL Draft first-rounder in edge defender Joseph Ossai. With outstanding athletic ability and good play strength, Ossai is a dangerous pass rusher who can win with finesse and/or power. He’ll start to shoot up draft boards if he can play with more gap discipline and be stouter against the run.
Finally, there is safety Caden Sterns who is a rangy playmaker with a high football IQ and fluid athleticism. However, he is not very physical and is not a consistent tackler against the run. That will likely keep Sterns out of the first-round discussion, but his coverage abilities are more than enough to make him a Day 2 selection.
- A Bay Area native who has a dysfunctional relationship with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.
- Matt played college football and was a recruiting assistant at Division 3 Willamette University, where he received his BA and MBA.
- He has worked in the industry as a journalist, film analyst for PFF, and graduated from the Scouting Academy.